It's a battle between free
speech and access to care. A small group of protestors religiously show up
outside of Burlington's Planned Parenthood. They're opposed to the abortions
"We care," said
Rita Mantone, a protester. "We just want to hand them information. We want
to be a quiet prayer witness. We're not here to aggravate."
But staffers at the clinic
say some protestors follow and intimidate the women trying to seek care.
"If we have one
patient who stops and doesn't come in to get tested for HIV because they feel
intimidated by a protester, that's one too many," said Jill Krowinski of
A few months ago Planned
Parenthood petitioned the city to establish a buffer zone. On Monday, in a 13-1
vote, city councilors approved an ordinance that would keep protestors 35 feet
from all reproductive health facilities in the city. The safety zone doesn't go
into effect until Aug. 15, but demonstrators say the city told them it started
"The City Council has
been not very interested in helping us understand the law," said Agnes
Clift, a protester.
Thirty-five feet from Planned
Parenthood's front door would put the protestors in the middle of the street.
So the alternative is to go 35 feet up the green belt, putting the protesters
right in front of a neighboring business.
"It creates a lot of
tension in front of the salon," said Don O'Connell, who owns the
neighboring business, O'M.
"We have always told
the people who own this business that we would not stand in front of their
business because they've asked us not to," Clift said. "And they're
pretty angry that we're standing here. We don't want to be offending
But demonstrators say the
ordinance has left them without a choice, especially since standing across the
street is not something they're willing to do.
"It puts us out of
reach of the client," Clift said.
But O'Connell now worries
about his clients and the commotion outside his door.
"I'm not here for a
holy war or a belief war. I'm here for the good of my salon and my
business," O'Connell said. "Every one of my clients has to at least
walk by or through the protesting."
An ordinance that pushes
his neighbor's problems closer is not something he thinks is fair. But as long
as the demonstrators aren't blocking his door, police say they can't force them
to put down the cameras or stop the praying.
Planned Parenthood says
they want to make sure their neighbors are comfortable with the zone.
Before the ordinance goes
into effect the city will post signs clearly marking the zone.
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